Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Afghanistan: New female wing in Gardez prison to help end discrimination issues

Source: UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan

The particular needs of female prisoners in the south-eastern Afghan city of Gardez are being better-addressed following the United Nations-facilitated completion of a new female wing of the city prison – previously, the prisoners had been locked up in a metal shipping container.

“The newly-completed female wing is an important step forward in recognizing the gender-specific needs of women in the criminal justice system and providing the standards that should be applied in the treatment of the women and their children,” said a Judicial Affairs Officer with the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), Jean Pascal Obembo.

UNAMA’s Rule of Law Unit helped finalize the female wing by connecting prison authorities with a donor able to cover the remaining $228,000 budget. The facility was inaugurated on 2 October in a ceremony in Gardez, the capital of Paktya province, attended by the provincial Deputy Governor, Abdul Wali Sehi, the province’s chief judge, and representatives from government corrections and law enforcement agencies, as well as UNAMA.

Construction of the female wing began in 2009 but had never been completed. Female prisoners were housed in metal containers – similar to those used for long-distance cargo transportation by sea.

“I was shocked when I first visited Gardez prison and observed that female inmates were detained in a container, while male inmates were detained in ‘hard wall’ prison,” said Mr. Obembo. “One does not need to be a specialist on detention conditions in order such discrimination.”

The Rule of Law Unit moved to obtain donor support to finish the female wing, putting local officials from Afghanistan’s Corrections System Support Programme (CSSP) in touch with the US State Department.

Amongst other purpose-built rooms, the new building contains a clinic, learning area and dedicated washrooms.

“This building will solve female prisoners’ problem to a great extent,” said Paktya province’s prisons director, Colonel Abdul Zahir.

The Paktya government plans to transfer female prisoners from three other prisons in the province to the Gardez prison.

Meanwhile, UNAMA has also backed the construction of new juvenile rehabilitation centre (JRC) building in Khost province.

“We shared our concerns about the dreadful conditions of JRC premises with the NATO- Rule of Law Field Force and convinced them to construct a brand new building, meeting international standards on juvenile justice,” Mr. Obembo said. It is estimated that it will cost around $450,000.

In addition to improved living conditions in the JRCs, UNAMA’s Rule of Law Unit has worked closely with Afghanistan’s Ministry of Justice to facilitate the establishment of juvenile courts in the country’s south-eastern region.

The trial of juveniles in adult courts is against Afghan law as well as the Convention of the Rights of the Child which the Afghan Government ratified in 1994. The Government has also adopted the Juvenile Code that provides juvenile justice system. Today, there are only six juvenile courts in six provinces out of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces.

According to the latest report of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on children in armed conflict, a UN-led country task force documented 189 cases of boys detained in JRCs by Afghan authorities in 2012, with a “further unknown number of children” held in detention facilities of the national police and the National Directorate of Security.